Abandoned Jacksonville: Atlantic Ale & Beer

September 22, 2014 4 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

This photo oriented article is dedicated to the industrial heritage of Jacksonville's urban core and the remains of a once proud, glorious industrial era. Many of the ghosts of factories, power plants, and mills still remain to be explored and appreciated, even as they slowly return to nature. So enjoy!

21st century Jacksonville is a vastly different place from what it was five decades ago. As late as the 1960's, and attracted by railroads, steamship lines, and a bustling port, hundreds of manufacturing and processing firms operated in the city's urban core, making it the "Industrial Capital of Florida."

Many of Jacksonville's major early 20th century manufacturing centers remain in name only. During manufacturing's heyday, names such as Merrill-Stevens Dry Dock & Repair Company, Gibbs Gas Engine Company, Kerr McGee Chemical Company, Eppinger & Russell Creosoting Works, and Alton Box Board Company dominated Jacksonville's industrial scene. Today, these employment centers exist in memory only, as their sites have been redeveloped into new uses or sit locked from public use, due to high levels of contamination.

Notwithstanding, when traveling on several forgotten side streets throughout the urban core, one can't help but have a bit of "factory nostalgia" due to industrial ruins flanking the century old rail lines that enabled Jacksonville to become the bustling center envisioned by its founders 182 years ago.  For example, on a daily basis, thousands of I-95 drivers pass over the ruins of the Atlantic Ice & Coal Corporation site in Brooklyn.

This image was taken on top of the Myrtle Avenue Subway. The Atlantic Ice & Coal Corporation plant is the collection of buildings on the left. Photograph courtesy of Florida State Archives. 

Brooklyn's ice manufacturing plant originally opened as the Florida Ice Manufacturing Company during the late 1890s at 1505 Dennis Street near Myrtle Avenue. With a daily capacity of 200 tons, the original structure stretched a full block, containing a 40' high ice storage house, freezing tanks, and a 3 story tall platform for condensers.

In 1910, the Florida Ice Manufacturing Company merged with several regional coal and ice companies, creating the Atlantic Ice & Coal Corporation. This merger was arranged for $3.5 million by Ernest Woodruff and the new company's headquarters was based out of Atlanta.

It could be argued that Woodruff was one of Atlanta's most influential businessmen during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1889, along with his brother-in-law, Joel Hurt, Woodruff founded one of that city's first electric trolleys, the Atlanta and Edgewood Street Railroad.  Woodruff also restructured the Atlantic Steel Company (current site of Atlantic Station) to get it out of debt during the first decade of the 20th century. This set the stage for the biggest maneuver of his career, which was the takeover of the Coca-Cola Company in 1919.

A 1920s Sanborn Map of the Atlantic Ice & Coal Corporation site.

Here, ice was manufactured for household and railcar use, as well as supplied cold storage to local industries.
By 1913, the ice plant had been expanded increasing ice making capacity to 600 tons. To produce ice, the plant utilized water, ammonia compression, the can process , and also operated from electrically-driven machinery.

In addition to the main office and plant at Myrtle Avenue and Dennis Street, area retail outlets were located at 1st & Clark, 1237 Davis Street, 822 Florida Avenue, Atlantic Boulevard (South Jacksonville), 1678 Herschel, and 4009 Post Street. The Atlantic Company also operated a cold storage warehouse in LaVilla's Railroad Row at Bay and Davis Streets.

The ice plant can be seen on the other side of the tracks in this Jacksonville Terminal Company image. Photograph courtesy of Florida State Archives.

In 1935, Atlantic Ice & Coal purchased Atlanta-based brewery Atlantic Ice & Bottling and the new company was named the Atlantic Company. During the 1940's, the Atlantic Company was the largest regional brewer in the South with breweries in Atlanta, Chattanooga, Charlotte, Norfolk, and Orlando. According to the book "Atlanta Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Hub of the South," ABC's "long aging process and more flavorful beers placed a higher burden on their brewery than did other breweries' technologies for mass production." Atlantic produced several beers including a bock, red ale, pale ale, and a pilsener.  Their slogans during this time period included "Atlantic Ale and Beer: Full of Good Cheer" and "The Beer of the South." Like the Jax Brewing Company, a few miles north, the Atlantic Company's brewing operations closed in 1956 due to competition from national brewers such as Anheuser-Busch and Schlitz.

Jacksonville City Directory advertisement. Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library.

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